There is a certain kind of person who adores scifi for minutia.
PS: Trigger warning, and NC-17 warning.
The Temporal Transgression of Wellington Barnes
“Our first mistake was sending our agent provocateur back too soon.”
“Oh, was that your mistake? Killing Hitler never goes out of style.”
“We tried that. Hitler wasn’t the problem. Hitler wasn’t the right door.”
Of course, Welly would choose a place like this to start one of her rants. We were in one of my favorite hipster cafes in the Village, a smoke-filled dragon’s den straight out of Funny Face. I say hipster, but it’s probably more accurate to say avant garde. There was a definite air of intellectual snobbishness, inspiring quotes pulled from dead men’s lips scrawled on the wainscoting, and Charlie Chaplin played quietly on one bare brick wall.
“The problem, of course, is finding those fucking doors.” Wellington told me in a fit of caffeine and bourbon inspired madness. “The difficulty of temporal correction is the labyrinthine nature of time- it spirals, it wobbles, it turns back on itself, but in the rare moment that the forces of causality overlap, a doorway shines clear through the maze of genetic dead-ends and conflicting agendas, and you have an opportunity to change something.”
“So why were you sent back?” I asked, nearly missing the cue to humor her. It was a well-worn path we were treading, but I knew it led to a night of furious, frustrated sex. As casual lovers went, Welly wasn’t bad- she was beautiful, she made me laugh, and I figured everybody needed one anarchist friend who had read too much Naomi Klein.
“Top fucking secret, Wong,” she said, winking. Top-notch! Welly only used my Chinese name when she was getting turned on. Every other time I was John. Maybe Johnny. My gaze flicked intermittently between her deep cleavage and the way her chocolate toffee locks laid on her toned shoulders. I motioned the waitress surreptitiously for the check. Usually at this point Welly gets worked up and stops making sense.
“But I can tell you about the other two times. Nothing you can do to change it now. That idiot Wilson thought it was the Bolsheviks, but oh no, that was us! We founded the IWW, sent the bombs, laid the propaganda groundwork. They hadn’t even heard of racially motivated heckling, or think tanks, all those things the grand old elephants use in your decade. Take away enough of their rights and even those dumb Doras know to fight back. Different decade? Eh, it all runs together after awhile. It was only after the Sedition Act passed that the Bureau issued the cease and desist order. Temporal mechanics, man, they’re a bitch.”
See what I mean?
By this time I had the top half of her in the cab. I was never much of a history buff, but I had enough sense in my head to keep nodding and shut up, at least until we got in the apartment. I was just too horny to care, and after awhile her rampant intellectualism started to be peppered with other things.
“The Cold War was our second temporal nexus opportunity… oh just let me, the clasp is in the front… God, your tongue!” Welly said.
“Mphh…” I agreed.
“‘Communism is twentieth-century Americanism,’ the slogan went. ‘Profits are just the value of your stolen labor.’ Give it to me, you bastard!” A stream of profanity issued from Welly’s rosy lips, and suddenly I was on the bottom. “But McCarthy betrayed us… ohh… Fuck. He bought into his own… uhh… paranoia… Ouch!”
“Sorry,” I said. My hand still stung from her taut bottom.
“No, wait, I liked it…” she moaned. I grinned.
“After, uh, Truman’s, uh, Executive Order, ahh, there, ah, wasn’t, uhhhh, much hope… oh Wong, right there… we, uh, got, uh, to, uh, the Friedman economists, uh, but by then… military-industrial complex….ahhhh… it, was, too, OHHHHH!”
I have never seen anyone get so wet talking about economic leverage or systemic disenfranchisement.
After an orgasm, Welly usually lost her train of thought. If it had ever left the depot. I always figured she just needed the release of frustration every once in awhile. From the way she pounded her thighs into the mattress and the nail marks on my back the next morning, she definitely had beef. But the mornings always found her recalcitrant, and a bit reluctant to continue what was so enthusiastically volunteered the night before. We usually parted with a quick doggie before she left my place, but she never spoke about changing history over her waffles. Apparently she didn’t want to talk about it; she probably didn’t want anyone stealing her novel ideas.
I met Welly in 2005, when I got into a screening for V for Vendetta at the Union Square Regal. She had been hounding some of the desk jockeys, trying to convince them to let her in using her People’s Paper press ID. Apparently a collegiate socialist newspaper doesn’t hold much clout in the entrepreneurial film industry, but I had a plus-one. It was a lame attempt at sex, but to my surprise she reciprocated. I had finally found someone flexible enough to get her leg onto the philosophy shelf of my bookcase, and Welly found someone willing to listen when she wanted to complain about social ills.
“You’d think a century of writers like Orwell or Dickens or bloody Oscar Wilde would have convinced people by now,” she would say.
“‘Man is a social animal!’” and so on and so forth. It was a kind of foreplay.
“Yea most people don’t read in this country, Welly,” I would say. “Now why don’t you get that ankle onto the headboard so I can get the rest of the butter on you?”
“You Americans remember Sinclair for taking the rats out of your beef but not his critique of labor- ahh, Wong, you’re in the wrong… never mind! Yes! Yes!”
As time went on, I stopped seeing my other casual partners, and started seeing Wellington Barnes more. I was tall, I worked out, and I was an executive at a top-notch financial institution. Partners were a dime a dozen. I was part of an elite group, the ones living the life while the ants slaved away below us. It made the angry sex all the better, and I never told Welly what I did for a living.
But there was just something about Wellington Barnes. She had a weird name, an anachronistic fondness for the gun range, and best of all, a bottomless sexual appetite. I could discuss less volatile authors with her and she had an actual opinion about why those fishermen abandoned the old man or whether the unicorns in the wonderland symbolized the protagonist’s dying dreams or his recovery of innocence. Welly always looked like she was hiding something, something drastically important, though her pell-mell journalism career never amounted to much. It made me want her all the more.
Maybe it was because we were both orphans, though she claimed she had a decent home life. She claimed displaced children were prioritized to homosexual parents in the future, who statistically made for better parents. Apparently when reproduction was guaranteed as a conscious choice, people chose it when they were ready for kids.She had had two dads, which sort of left her in a double father complex. Hence, yours truly.
Welly said a lot of things about the future, how the basics of food, water, and health care were human rights, just like how we value our lives and liberties today. Or how Americans were taught about social contracts, made to read Huxley and Rousseau at a young age, so even the lowly garbage man would be equipped to participate in politics. No more bipartisanship, no more disaster capitalism, just an informed populace who could truly rule themselves.
“It’s like, you hear what everyone wants to say, without their shouting over each other and stabbing each other in the back. Things like that are worth saving, yea?” she said one night.
“If it’s so important, why waste time hitting me with that riding crop? Why not just change the future, and eliminate me as a witness?” I said at the time, enjoying the role-play. I almost began to believe she was on some kind of mission from the future, and joked about her sleeping with me just so she could terminate me at the right time.
“I’m waiting for the right moment, John,” she answered, “in about… one year, three months and eight days.”
It was only a matter of, hysterically, time, before we were living together. It was an equitable arrangement, with the biggest problems being masking the sounds of our lovemaking with hastily prepared gags or loud movies. I was meticulous to a fault, and Welly was beautiful enough to be a slob. In fact, we worked out so well, I had all but forgotten about Wellington’s alleged mission.
“You know tomorrow’s the day,” she reminded me on Thursday afternoon.
Sitcoms and chick flicks teach you the rundown for these situations: Definitely not the big P, or even the little p. We had been careful… had we? The pills had been strong. I might have rode bareback in a haze of sex. Was it an Anniversary? Birthday?
“Oh yea, I’ve got a surprise for you,” I said with a knowing wink. Inside, I was panicking. But like I said, I was meticulous, and had bought Welly diamond-studded gauges for her ears.
In fact, it didn’t even surprise me the next day when I awoke hog-tied to the bed. In hindsight I guess she had been preparing me for that one, slowly introducing the leathers and the safety words.
“Okay Welly, you can let me up now. I’ll even admit it, I didn’t remember what day it was, but I got us a reservation at the French place you like, and there’s a bottle of Dom P in the fridge,” I said after the third time. I had the gauges in a gift-wrapped box in the refrigerator, so when she opened it she would get the surprise. Instead of heading over there, Welly took her bathrobe off and began to pull on some going-out clothes.
“Nice try,” Welly answered. “But I can’t let you go.”
“Seriously, my wrists are chafing here. I don’t think I was even awake to set up a safety word. Great Scott! Tardis! O’Connor!”
“I’m sorry John, do you really not know? I’ve been telling you about the mission ever since I met you. I know we’ve joked about it before, but I can’t let you go into the office today.”
At this point I was starting to feel like I was reenacting Misery, and I wanted to play nice before Welly decided to smash my feet with a cinderblock. Besides, she couldn’t do much harm- all my accounts were paying out nicely. I wasn’t even expected at the office today.
Welly looked at her wristwatch.
“In about five minutes, Shirley from the firm will call about the Wilkins account. If you aren’t there to placate the client, Jeremiah Wilkins will call your boss, Walter Simmons, who will call his boss, Roger Smith, when he discovers the numbers don’t add up.”
The hairs were crawling on my neck. How did she know about those people? How did she know what I did? I had been a ninja and Chandler Bing rolled into one. But Welly could have looked into my laptop anytime…
“Wellington, those are very important people. Now be a grown-up and let me–”
My phone rang early, and Welly paused until the machine picked it up. My secretary’s voice began to speak, and that’s when I started to panic. Welly spoke over me, in that clear, confident voice she had.
“Smith and Simmons will take about two hours to sort through the financial product you sold Wilkins-”
“Come on, let me off this bed, my job is at stake here! I don’t have the luxury of entertaining your delusions.”
“-and when he realizes there’s not enough capital to cover Wilkins’ pulling out, and he can’t hide the fact you and half the guys on your floor have been selling toxic assets hidden as financial derivatives, that’s when he’ll start to panic. Wilkins won’t buy the firm’s story about the housing bubble collapse, and that will lead to a chain reaction that will bankrupt the company, and nine other financial giants next door.”
“FUCK YOU, BITCH YOU LET ME OFF THIS BED RIGHT NOW OR I SWEAR TO GOD-”
“The resulting catastrophic economic recession will cripple three automotive companies, one oil company and a smattering of smaller firms. It will spark six separate class riots, four reform groups and a growing distrust in the Chicago school free trade economists, gradually bringing about the first American socialist reform since the Great Depression. It will prove once and for all free trade capitalism is barbaric and doesn’t work, restoring the time line to its rightful, humane place. 87% success rate. Mission Complete.”
Or some shit like that. Gradually she stopped talking and I stopped cursing. The machine had quit long ago, and I just lay there, resigned to the fact my firm had filled my answering machine in about two minutes. I simply did not believe it. Shirley’s voice had come on at first, then Simmons, the dick. Finally the harsh bark of Mr. Smith, declaring I was fired.
Everything Wellington said was coming true. But fuck that. It was every American’s god-given right to exploit, cheat, and generally pursue happiness. No goddamn hippie would change anything by tying one fund manager to a bed for a day. Welly was off her rocker. I would just have to ride this thing out and lie to my boss the next day. Or not. I had the scarring to prove I was tied down by an insane broad…
“They even make this group, just down the block, called ‘Occupy Wall St.’ Can you believe it? Not even one idea man, and people just bond together knowing something is wrong. It’s amazing,” she said after awhile. Wellington Barnes was toying with a cell phone in her deft hands, just sitting on the bed with me.
“Dirty hippies will congregate anywhere we let them. It’s what they do,” I managed. “You’ve done enough damage, you can let me up now. There’s no way I can make it in to convince Wilkins to trust us again.”
“Those dirty hippies paid for your MBA,” Welly said casually, like someone who was assured of victory.
“Hey, I paid my own way,” I said. “I crawled to where I am on my hands and knees.”
“Bullshit,” she said calmly. “You told me yourself, you got the city scholarship because you were a minority. Those are publicly funded. What about the unemployment you pulled after graduation? Or the cops you called last week when you caught Mrs. Anderson watching us fuck from across the street? All of it paid for with public tax money. You’re living in a social world, John, you should accept responsibility for it.”
Her cell phone jabbered, and she stuffed a wad of towels into my clever retort so she could answer.
“Yea. Uh-huh. Bailout package, huh? Fucking do-gooders. If they had any spine… I appreciate the sentiment, but they never see the big picture.” She hung up.
Suddenly she had a gun in her hand, the silenced, highly illegal Glock from my safe. Someone had filed off the numbers.
“It’s illegal, so there’ll be no trace. There’s no record of my birth anyway, and my fingerprints aren’t in the system. I’m sorry Wong, it’s not personal- we’re just making sure you don’t let the enemy in on our operation.” She clicked the slide back once, satisfyingly.
“I thought you had an 87% success rate?” I nearly screamed. My voice got washed out in some gang fight on the thirty-seven inch flat screen.
“My superiors just contacted me. It turns out that was too generous a projection- we have a lot of resistance, you see. The enemy is the human capacity for greed, and avarice is everywhere. I can’t let you inform the pigs about our operation.”
“I swear, I won’t say a word. Who would believe me, anyway?” I felt my face growing wet, and my shorts, too. Christ. It wasn’t the first time Welly had watched me pee, but it was a hell of a lot different when she wasn’t showering in it. Apparently, the sick bitch had a similar thought.
“I’ll make this as painless as I can, Wong. Would you like me to give you fellatio as I do it? I can pull the trigger as soon as you come. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, it’s our motto. I certainly have the ability. It looks like you need…”
We had already done it three times that day, but when she pulled down my boxers and began to handle me, the gun started to fade into unimportance. I fought the feeling of her deft, soft fingers, and the breath she blew across the tip of me. My wrists were bleeding already, but I desperately worried at the sheets Welly had tied them in. When she started to lick, I almost forgot about how she would black widow my ass.
“You don’t have to do this,” I said in a generally downward direction. I groaned.
“It’s a one-way trip, Wong,” Welly answered with her mouth full. “I can’t ever go back, so you can’t compromise my mission. I still have a very high profile con man to assassinate, just in case. No spoilers… Turns out they can rig an election more than once.”
Welly got back to business. After awhile there was only so much I could do to hold back. She knew every button to push, every square inch of my skin. I started to voice my objections, and now even Welly was beginning to touch herself.
“Ugh, you always had more stamina than me,” she said, pulling the middle of her shorts aside. Her warmth nearly put me over the edge, but I hung on, a good trooper, even as her thighs gripped like a vise and her hands grasped at her uncovered chest. We were both riding that final crest, until suddenly we were over it. She clung to me the whole time, milking me until I was spent. Just as she reached for the gun, her phone rang, surprising us so much that Welly almost fell off the bed.
“You’ll just have to settle for the afterglow,” Welly whispered breathlessly and jammed the tip of the silencer between my teeth. I tasted gun oil and blood, both mine. With her left hand, she answered the call. With her lady parts, she squeezed me a couple times.
“Barnes. Uh-huh,” she said huskily. The satisfied flush slowly drained from her face as she listened. Suddenly she leapt away from me with a ‘pop!’ The gun left my mouth with slippery, dangling strings of uncontrollable spit. Something similar was going on downstairs.
“Fuck. Fuck. How could this happen? I was so careful. No, I didn’t miss one. No, you listen to me,” Welly yelled into the phone. She ran around the apartment now, getting her things together, bra on, zipping up her café racer jacket. “These things should have been investigated before you sent me to this damned backwards time frame. Yes, I’m aware the future changes depending on what we do. Give me five minutes to extract.”
I lost sight of her as she disappeared around a corner, but as soon as I thought to relax she returned, dumping a duffel next to me on the bed. Then she was throwing things in, normal things like panties and skirts, but also heavy things, metal things, impossible things. When she had the bag together, she hung up.
“Baby? Are you leaving me? At least let me up from here!” I struggled vainly against the ties, as if to make my point. I only succeeded in flopping around comically.”The role play was fun. I like a little danger. You even got Smith to play along, you dirty… But you have to let me up now!”
“Typical,” Wellington sighed. “Always thinking with your ego. There are more important things. I doubt you’ll see me again, if that’s what you mean.” Wellington paused, looking down at me.
“You were the craziest girl I ever slept with,” I said. “I think I love you.”
The look of disgust was weird on Welly’s usually impassive face, but in the time it took her to pull on some stiletto heels, she seemed to soften.
“Hey… stay out of London on November 15th, 2022, okay? I know you head there sometimes because your accent is popular with the redheads,” she said gently.
“Are you planning something?”
“You’d never be able to prove it,” she said with an air of finality, turning to leave. “There’s a knife taped behind the headboard, you should be able to reach it.”
“Wait! Why didn’t you kill me?” I called. Not that I believed her time-travel bullshit.
“Oh that? Green flag. Apparently you’re my great-great-grandfather, or something. They’re supposed to check for that, but I was an orphan and the records were missing. Can’t kill you without nullifying my existence. Ciao, John.”
Just like that, Wellington Barnes disappeared from my life. It has never, ever recovered.